A strange thing happened today in 1992: the Pacific Ocean filled up with rubber duckies.


28,800 in all, according to author Donovan Hohn, who wrote an entire book about them.

They weren’t supposed to go into the ocean.

They were on a cargo ship traveling from Hong Kong to the United States, and if everything had gone according to plan they would have ended up as bath toys.

But the ship encountered a storm with high winds as it headed east, and 12 of its shipping containers fell overboard.

One of those containers also broke open, one with boxes and boxes of bath toys.

Technically there were also beavers, turtles and frog toys, too, but it was the yellow ducks that caught the public imagination, especially when they started floating their way through the ocean and washing up on shores.

People found the bath toys in Alaska, Australia, and South America.

It’s believed some even went far north enough to cross into the Atlantic Ocean, because they’ve been found as far away as Scotland.

There’s now a website dedicated to tracking the Friendly Floatees, as they’re known.

The accidental duck launch ended up being useful to those who study ocean currents.

Because scientists knew when the bath toys fell into the ocean, they could track where the toys went and how long it took for them to get there.

The Floatees have also been a big reminder about the danger of plastic ending up in the ocean.

Rubber ducks can wash up on a shore, but a lot of plastic doesn’t, and it ends up as pollution.

Acclaimed children’s authors Eve Bunting and Eric Carle both wrote books about the ducks, and Disney made a movie about them, called “Lucky Duck.”

The actual bath toys get sold online, sometimes for lots of money.

So if you’re on the shore and you see a rubber duck that looks like it’s spent the last three decades at sea?

Hang onto it.


This story has just one rubber duck.

Sort of.

It was today in 1976 that the song “Convoy” by C.W. McCall hit number one on the Billboard pop chart.

The CB radio craze hit its peak as renegade trucker known as Rubber Duck talked with Sodbuster and Pig Pen to avoid the Smokeys.

There was a follow up song that would have fit pretty well with the Friendly Floatees.

It was called “‘Round the World With the Rubber Duck.”

We’ll catch you on the flip-flop, good buddy.

The great escape: the bath toys that swam the Pacific (The Guardian)

What Can 28,000 Rubber Duckies Lost at Sea Teach Us About Our Oceans? (Treehugger)

OTD in 1976 Convoy hits #1 (Songfacts)

We should say 10-4 to our Patreon backers because they are definitely our good buddies

Photo by jacinta lluch valero via Flickr/Creative Commons